Street Art Initiative is a beneficial organisation that aims to give opportunity to those who may not otherwise have the chance. We aim to provide a stable income for our members (people who suffer from homelessness/mental and physical disabilities) through the sale of their artwork. We provide them with the tools and the support they need to produce art and then make their pieces available for purchase on our platform. The artists receive 50% of the profit from their piece and the rest of the money goes into furthering our mission and helping more artists. We also donate 10% of our profits to various charities that we work with such as St Vincent’s Blackfriars and CALM zone.
HERD spoke to Oscar to find out a little more about his Street Art Initiative journey, the challenges they’ve faced and the success stories which have followed:
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’re currently up to?
My name is Oscar Slacke and I am 21 years old. I went to school in Hampshire and then went on to study Sociology at Newcastle University, but I dropped out after 1 year. I have since started up a food business and I also work in events. Through working I learned a lot about the wider community here in the North East, I then founded ‘Street Art Initiative’.
What inspired you to start the Street Art Initiative and how did you get the wheels in motion?
Towards the end of lockdown, I moved back up to Newcastle, I was stood in the queue for Tesco’s near where I live. There was a homeless man sat near the entrance and we got chatting, he told me how he ended up on the street and what he struggles with most day to day. He was anxious and worried about his future, especially with everything going on at the moment. He was clearly in distress and I felt so helpless. This, for me, was one of those moments that takes you aback and makes you re-assess what you are doing.
I decided to start a massive food bank collection from students in Newcastle and the surrounding areas. Over 500 food items were donated in around a week, that I delivered to 2 different charities (St Vincent’s Blackfriars Centre and the WestEndFoodbank). I was truly amazed at the response from the students and the food donated helped those in need.
About a week after the food bank donations I was trying to think of a more sustainable and long-term method in which I could help the community. I then came up with the idea for Street Art Initiative.
What have been your biggest challenges over the last few months?
Initially our biggest challenge was finding the artists. Many factors made this hard, firstly because of COVID and everything having to be done online, it was a struggle to reach out to those who may not have access to social media. More recently our biggest challenge has been getting the artwork sold, we have 11 original pieces for sale currently and authentic prints of 2 of these pieces. We are constantly learning how best to market the pieces to the general public. We know that once a few of our pieces have sold it will cause a snowball effect and then we can bring in some much-needed funds for our artists. This project has been a challenge for me personally with trying to balance a work and social life also, but I wake up every day and genuinely enjoy cracking on doing my best to make a difference.
What have been the success stories so far / what has been the most rewarding moment?
When we first launched there was a period of about 2 weeks in which we were searching and searching for artists that would benefit from our services. I then woke up one morning to an email from the lovely Aly Smith who said she heard about our organisation through a newsletter that had been put out. Aly suffers from Bipolar disorder along with a few other mental health diagnoses. I can’t describe the feeling I got when I received Aly’s email expressing her interest in joining Street Art Initiative as one of our members. We finally had the chance to make a real difference to someone’s life and do what we initially set out to do – give people opportunity.
Since then, there have been many other highs, signing our 2nd artist – Mick who is partially sighted after an accident over lockdown which has caused him to now have scar tissue over his eyes. Mick has a wide range of landscape works that are currently for sale on our website.
We also recently had a short film made by two talented student videographers – Jonah and Jamie. When I first saw the video it almost brought a tear to my eye, it was so perfectly made and expressed everything I wanted to get across about Street Art Initiative.
Overall, the most rewarding part of running this Initiative is the people I meet. From our artists, to the people I work with, everyone is so inspirational in their own way and it brings a lot of light into the world that is much needed at the moment.
What is your vision for the future of the Street Art Initiative?
My vision for the future of Street Art Initiative is for it to be the main platform for disadvantaged artists to display and sell their artwork on in the UK. Alongside this I want it not only to be about selling the artwork but offering our artists the support network and mental health guidance that they might need in their day to day lives. We are looking to expand the Initiative to the south of England where we will mirror our work down there. I could not do any of this without the incredible people I work alongside including Imogen, Paree and Jess – they do an incredible job of supporting this initiative and keeping everything ticking along. Also, to Aly and Mick who are truly inspirational and have been an absolute pleasure to work with.
How can young people get involved and help ?
The way in which young people can get involved is to spread the word about what we do here at Street Art Initiative. With every sale of one of our pieces, artists lives are dramatically changing. So, if you know anyone who may be interested in owning one of our pieces please do get in touch with us even if it’s just to have a chat. The way people can help in a broader sense is to be aware of their community and support it in any way you can, whether buying a sandwich for someone suffering on the street or donating to your local charity, it could even be smiling when you walk past someone – A lot of people are struggling right now and if you can brighten up someone’s day in any shape or form I think it’s something worth doing. Everything you do helps no matter how small.
Questions answered by Oscar Slacke, founder of Street Art Initiative.